A few weeks ago, I answered a letter from someone asking whether they could submit writing samples that had been edited by people other than them, or whether it needed to be work untouched by others (#3 at the link). I said that it needed to be a piece that no one else had edited, or that they should note it if that wasn’t the case.
I want to correct that, because my answer was apparently wrong for a lot of fields (maybe even for most fields), which I now know thanks to commenters calling that out.
I took norms from my professional background and incorrectly applied them across the board — and, frankly, dug in my heels for a while when people told me that I was wrong. I’m grateful that people corrected me.
I don’t want the incorrect advice standing out there for people to follow, so I’m adding in a link from that post to this one. And I wanted to correct it loudly with its own post too, so that anyone who read the first post isn’t taking bad advice.
For the record: The general consensus was that as long as a writing sample hasn’t been heavily edited, it’s fine and normal to submit something that’s been edited by someone else (and that if it’s been heavily edited, it shouldn’t be submitted).
While I’m revisiting past answers, I also want to note that I know some people questioned whether I was too easy on the guy who racked up $20,000 in personal debt on his company credit card. I want to be really clear that I in no way think what he did was acceptable. But I was pretty sure that letter had the potential to become a really intense pile-on, and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want it because (a) I want people who have made bad decisions to continue writing in, and eviscerating them isn’t conducive to that and (b) I thought (maybe incorrectly, who knows) that he already understood he’d done something really wrong and that berating him would add to an already bad situation. Somehow that ended up reading to some people as treating it lightly, and that very much wasn’t what I intended. If I miscommunicated that, though, it’s a fair thing to call me out on.